Cuban Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara Released on Tuesday

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested on Monday afternoon. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 June 2019 — The police released artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on Tuesday afternoon after he spent 24 hours in the San Miguel del Padrón police station, the independent artist explained to 14ymedio.

By telephones, moment after his release, Alcántara related that he was arrested on Monday in the middle of the street. The artist claims State Security officers along with uniformed National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who led him to a patrol car.

The arrest came shortly after Alcántara announced his participation in a performance at the Museum of Dissidence in Cuba, which consisted of holding the Cuban flag on a balcony for a period of 24 hours at a ninety degree angle. During the arrest, the police confiscated one of the banners that he was going to use in the artistic action. continue reading

May the country contemplate you with pride? is the name of the performance that, despite the repression, was carried out. “We did everything, the reading, the action with the flag and then a party,” one of the members of the San Isidro Movement told this newspaper.

“Once again they talked to me about public space, they say that everything inside the house is fine but they will not allow anything to happen in the public space. I told them that the balcony was part of my house but they say no, and well, we can go on like this for 70 years because I am going to continue making my art despite the arrests,” explained Otero Alcántara.

This work is the last of the series SeUsa, a work that received criticism from officialdom. In particular, the peformance with the American flag was described as “annexationist” by Fernando Rojas, the vice minister of culture.

In his Twitter account Rojas wrote “Thousands of exhibitions, hundreds of artists, millions of Cuban men and women, the great popular festival of visuality in Cuba, that three annexationists will not tarnish. They dressed children in the US flag and made them parade down the street, they abuse goodness and innocence.”

Last April, the artist, who is also a member of the San Isidro Movement, suffered an arbitrary detention that prevented him from carrying out this action, planned in the context of the XIII Havana Biennial.

The piece was a tribute to Daniel Llorente, “The man with the flag,” and consisted of young people from the neighborhood running 66 meters wearing a T-shirt with the Cuban flag and holding the American flag on their heads. The action recalled the protest of Daniel Llorente, on May 1st of 2017, in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Otero Alcántara is known on the island for his rebellious art and was one of the most visible faces in the fight against Decree 349, which restricts the freedom of creation of artists. In 2016 he created the Museum of Dissidence in Cuba with Yanelys Nuñez, a project that aims to approach the history of the Island with an independent and critical view.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

"The Fight Against Decree 349 Will Continue," Insists Amaury Pacheco After Being Released

Group of artists who promote the campaign against Decree 349. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 December 2018 — On Wednesday, around eight-thirty in the evening, Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero were released, according to what they told 14ymedio when they left the Vivac de Calabazar Detention Center after protesting Decree 349.

“First we were in the eleventh unit of the San Miguel de Padrón police station, there we spent Monday night and on Tuesday they took us to Vivac (the State Security detention center), and when we arrived they did not want to accept us because Luis was on-strike and they returned us to the unit but in the night they accepted us (at Vivac) and we stayed there until they let us go. During the interrogations they told us that if we protested again in front of the Ministry of Culture they would accuse us of illegal association and demonstrating without permission.”

Núñez explained that Luis Manuel Otero, after leaving prison after more than 48 hours on hunger and thirst strike, had taken a soda. continue reading

On the other hand, on the night of Tuesday, the artists Amaury Pacheco and the producer Michel Matos were released, according to Pacheco himself, speaking to14ymedio after being released

Both were detained in the midst of a repressive wave by State Security against a peaceful sit-in in front of the Ministry of Culture (Mincuult) headquarters as a part of the campaign against Decree 349. Pacheco explained that his hunger strike will be maintained “as long as any artist is in prison” and he will return this morning to the Ministry of Culture if Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero are not released during the night.

Pacheco said that when he arrived at the Ministry of Culture on November 3, both he and Matos were detained and that they spent most of their time in the police unit of the municipality of Regla. “Michel was taken first to Guanabacoa but then they brought him to the same jail where I was in Regla, there they interrogated us and told me that if I went back to Mincult I would be imprisoned for one to three years,” he said.

This newspaper was also able to speak with artist Tania Bruguera after she was released on Tuesday night after her third arrest, including her first arrest at the beginning of the protest. “They held me from nine in the morning until nine at night but they did not take me to a unit, they left me inside the car until three thirty in the afternoon at La Puntilla and then they took me to a house that is beyond Lenin Park, by way of Calvario,” explained the artist.

She says that at every moment the agents told her they would take her home but when she expressed her desire to return to the Ministry of Culture, that proposal was postponed until finally at nine o’clock in the evening they left her at the door of her house. During the detention in the house where the artist was taken, they offered her water and food, even though she had told her captors that she was on a hunger and thirst strike.

“They took me to a room with a table covered with food, I told them I was not going to eat, then they gave me a cold water bottle but I told him to keep it and later they also offered me ice cream but I also refused,” says the renowned artist.

“You know how I react when someone is imprisoned because it happened in 2014, I will talk with no problems when no one is being held prisoner,” Bruguera told the agent.

The musician Sandor Pérez Pita, from the reggae group Estudiantes sin Semilla (Students without Seed), was also released in the afternoon.

The artist Amaury Pacheco had affirmed that he maintained his hunger and thirst strike until they released the rest of the artists and that “the fight against Decree 349 continues.” In a video posted on his social networks he said this entire battle is being fought “for art, for freedom of expression.”

In conversation with 14ymedio, Tania Bruguera said that the intention was to return on Thursday to the Ministry of Culture to demand again the release of Yanelys Núñez Leyva and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara to establish a dialogue with the institution and to ask for a response.

Artists from several countries have mobilized since Tuesday in favor of the release of the group of artists who oppose Decree 349. The director of the Tate Modern gallery in London, Frances Morris, expressed on Twitter that these arrests clearly illustrate the threats many artists around the world are facing.

Also this Wednesday afternoon a public session was held in the Turbine Hall to say “No to Decree 349” and provide support to detainees through an open microphone to those who wish to participate.

The Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor of the US State Department wrote on its Twitter account that “the Government of Cuba continues to criminalize freedom of expression while besieging artists and journalists to discourage protests against Decree 349.”

Meanwhile, Silvio Rodríguez wrote a comment on the blog Segunda Cita that “Decree 349 may have very good intentions but I’m sure it would be better if it were discussed with the artists.” He added that “it was something cooked up among the few” and that in his opinion “a disposition of this scopes must have a more democratic origin, and a purpose.”

“Perhaps there should be a moratorium on the decree, until an acceptable modification is discussed and resolved, and I do not know whether I will be able to work abroad as I have been doing, starting next year. I began to work on my own in the face of the very inefficient state contracting and coordination mechanisms,” the troubadour wrote.

Deborah Bruguera, Tania’s sister, wrote: “While on the phone with Tania Bruguera, Lt. Col. Kenia took her in a car, right at the corner of the MINCULT.” The artist sent a public statement “of the artists who have called for the sit-in at the Ministry of Culture of Cuba,” that her sister shared on social networks.

We reproduce the text in its entirety:

We have decided to make a call to sit peacefully and respectfully to camp, meditate, read poetry, dance, paint or perform any artistic activity in front of the Ministry of Culture because:

1: The artists of all the demonstrations, have carried them out in an organized way and through institutional channels to request the repeal of Decree 349 and its subsequent drafting with the assistance of the artists.

2: Even though these groups have met with leaders of the Ministry of Culture, the promises that they have made to respond have not been met and, failing that, a technical article was published in the Granma newspaper on November 30, justifying the validity of the current Decree 349, along with a bombardment on national television of programs with explanations in favor of 349 in its current format. This seems indicative to us that Decree 349 will not be repealed because this seems to be an action with the purpose of setting the population against our demands.

3: [The government] has commented that regulations and corrective rules will be made for the implementation of Decree 349. This seems insufficient because, given that the Decree has serious errors of representation and puts artists in a state of vulnerability, by criminalizing them and their works, we do not believe that it is appropriate to proceed with how to implement the Decree, if not the Decree itself.

4: December 7th is approaching, the date on which Decree Law 349 will become effective. We are asking for a meeting open to all with the Minister of Culture to inform us what has been the result of the meetings held with the artists and what will happen with Decree 349.

We want to receive from the Ministry of Culture the same respect towards us that we have had towards them. We will continue presenting ourselves to the Ministry of Culture to ask for our right to a response and open meeting with all the artists.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Customs Confiscates Opposition T-Shirts at Havana Airport

T-shirts against Decree 349 seized by Cuban Customs at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, November 6, 2018 — The campaign against Decree 349, an article in the the proposed new Cuban constitution which includes strict rules on artistic expression in public spaces, has collided with Cuban customs restrictions. Upon her return to the island, artist and activist Yanelys Nuñez reported on social media that customs officials at José Martí International Airport  had confiscated eight T-shirts with anti-decree slogans she was bringing from the United States.

On Sunday Nuñez and a fellow artist, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, returned from a three-day trip to Miami, where they had been participating in an artistic event. The items, which were produced in the United States by Cuban-American designer Coco Fusco and were adorned with an illustration by Alén Lauzán, were seized after customs officials had inspected their baggage. Two of the shirts belonged to Nuñez and the other six to Otero. continue reading

“As soon as they saw ’349,’ they told us it was subversive propaganda,” the activist explained to 14ymedio. She and Otero had travelled to the United States to participate in an event organized by a not-for-profit organization, Creative Time, entitled “On an Island: Defending the Right to Create,” at which they made a presentation critical of Decree 349.

The artist has already said she will file suit in Havana to reclaim the two shirts that were confiscated and is currently receiving legal advice.

Before boarding their flight to Miami, Nuñez and Otero were detained at the airport while their luggage was being searched. Though authorities did not confiscate anything at the time, the delay caused them to miss their flight on American Airlines. Later that afternoon they were able to catch another flight to Miami on the same airline.

The main complaint of those critical of Decree 349 is that, in every case, artists must obtain prior approval from a cultural organization, which they are forced to join, before executing their work. This requirement directly impacts those who create work outside a state-sponsored framework. The result is that the content of their work is subject to regulation.

The campaign against Cuba’s Decree 349 is important to Yanelys Núñez because “the government survives on its image.” Her goal is for more artists and cultural institutions to “speak out against this blatant censorship by the Diaz-Canel government.” She plans to continue exerting significant pressure to achieve its repeal.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Poet Rafael Alcides, the Protagonist in Miguel Coyula’s Latest Documentary

Rafael Alcides at the screening of Miguel Coyula’s film ‘Nadie’ (Nobody) in Havana.

Yanelys Nunez Leyva, Havana Times, 26 December 2016 — One of the most recent films directed by filmmaker Miguel Coyula is being screened during some independent spaces in Havana: Samuel Riera’s studio, Oscar Casanella’s home and the El Circulo gallery.

On Sunday the 18th, I went to see it at this last venue, located in Lia Villares and Luis Trapaga’s home, and I was happy to see so many familiar spaces. Several friends, journalists, activists, art critics, writers…

Most of us sat on the floor in the small living room, and the documentary Nadie (Nobody) from 2016 was shown promptly at 8:10 PM. continue reading

The protagonist, the poet Rafael Alcides was among us. It’s a luxury, almost everyone who knows him was saying.

I’m slightly out of the know, I haven’t read anything that he’s written, even though I have had some excellent recommendations.

The first thing that I liked was the narrator’s voice, it was nostalgic, bucolic, beautiful.

Then, Alcides’ story came; he didn’t want to speak about his personal life. Only about the novels which he is trying to recover right now, papers which have fallen to pieces due to the typewriter’s corrosive ink and time.

He only wanted to speak about his love/hate relationship with the revolutionary process. About his deception in the face of Fidel supporting the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, and of Ochoa’s assassination.

He only wants to talk about Beauty.

At the screening of ‘Nadie’ in Havana: Rafael Alcides, far left. Miguel Coyula, far right. Lynn Cruz, fourth from right.

Coyula appeals to a visual collage, just like he did in his renowned Memories del Desarrollo (Memories of Overdevelopment). In the film, Antonia Eiriz’s pedestal becomes that of Alcides, who talks in a die-hard fashion with a caricature of Fidel, that of historic and rhetorical speeches. And he answers him, in a debate about the life of the New Man.

Alcides isn’t a defeated poet. According to him, artists are a testimony and chronicler of their time, and he still believes he can do both of these things in the most dignified way he can.

He has distanced himself from the institutions which once published a book of his, he has sought refuge in his home, he has cut himself off from his neighbors, from friends who were too involved but whom he still loves, but who no longer visit him.

Alcides leads us in this documentary to what he calls «everybody’s burial», which is nothing more than the death of an idea, of a utopian dream, with Fidel Castro’s death.

The director of the documentary didn’t put it forward to be screened in the selection of movies at the Havana Film Festival. He wants to send it to other platforms, perhaps more understanding international events where there is greater dialogue.

The story of this cursed poet will reach Cuban viewers in another way, perhaps at screenings like this one, informal, maybe even via the paquetito, the alternative to the «government’s» Weekly Package of audiovisuals. The important thing is that it has already come to life, that it has already begun its journey, existing on the fringe, with the same seal of the good «misfits» who made it.

Note: Translation from The Havana Times